The Anatomy of Hate (YouTube Video)

Back in 2016, I was on a road tour with a gentleman in Madhya Pradesh. He was an acquaintance – a former high-level executive from a smaller brand, who was now working for the same distributor that was dealing with the brand I was working for. Since I wasn’t a local to MP, I was asked by the distributor to accompany this gentleman and meet our business partners across the various districts throughout the state. This gentleman was pretty well-behaved, polite, and friendly. I had developed a very good image of him – until the topic veered to Muslims. Then, things just got weird.

I couldn’t believe that a decent guy like him could have such hateful opinions about a whole community. He was talking about how Muslims choose to stay in ghettos and become criminals instead of studying and doing something with their lives. I just nodded and tried to change the topic. I had the counter-argument right there on my lips. “Muslims live in ghettos because they’re not easily rented out places in Hindu neighborhoods. Even well-to-do Muslims have trouble finding housing. And “become criminals” is such a generalization. I know at least 5 Muslim friends from Motijharan, the Muslim neighborhood in my hometown, who are well educated and well placed, how can you pass a sweeping judgment on a whole community like that?” I had the argument right there, but I didn’t say it. I avoided confrontation.

This hate or rather disgust for Muslims was nothing new. Before I moved to Indore in 2016, I lived in Hyderabad for a year. When I first got transferred to Hyderabad, another colleague of mine from ITC, Tamseel da had also been transferred to Telangana to handle another vertical of the business. So, we were house-hunting at the same time. He was a very interesting man – a devout Muslim guy from Ranchi, he had studied Sanskrit and would often rattle shlokas from Upanishads and Geeta to support his philosophy. We came across at least two instances where people outright refused to rent to him and one where my broker, who was unaware of Tamseel da’s religion, listed the USP of a society which included the fact that they didn’t allow Muslim tenants. Where does this hate come from? I have often wondered about this. If you look at Tamseel da and me in one frame, you’d struggle to see a difference between us. But people treat him differently once they find out he prays to Allah and not Ram or Krishna. Why?

Well, it is our conditioning.

I detest the Modi administration for their divisive politics. But I can’t solely blame them for the discrimination that Muslims face in our country. They have merely exploited the feelings that were always there to their advantage. The Us vs Them feeling. Don’t get me wrong – they are definitely accountable for fanning the fire, something the earlier administrations refrained from. Anyway, as I said, the feeling was always there.

And like everything else, it starts small. It does not always begin with hatred – it starts with minor differentiations that ultimately lead to disgust and hatred. Let me give you a personal example.

The very first opinion I had of Muslims was that they were dirty. I don’t know in what context it had come up, but my grandma had mentioned that Muslims stink because they don’t take bath. She theorized that it was because Muslims are from the Middle Eastern deserts and water is scarce there, so instead of bathing, they use ittar, so they smell and are dirty. Now on the one hand, she was instilling a wildly generalized idea about a whole community into the head of a small child, on the other hand, she was justifying it with an explanation that is illogical but easy to believe because Muslims have Arabic-sounding names. 

I don’t mean to portray my grandma as a bigot. She was a kind woman – flawed but kind. In fact, even for her, this deep-seated discrimination was a product of years of conditioning and not an opinion developed out of lived experience.

Anyway, in the seventh grade, when I joined a new school, I befriended a boy named Kasid. Now Kasid was an active kid and used to play a lot of sports. So he used to perspire profusely. Sweat has a stench. I would have had no opinion about Kasid being sweaty, had I not heard what my grandma had once said. But, since I had, I started feeling disgusted by Kasid, even before I realized why. And the funny thing is that even I was an equally sweaty kid. It didn’t matter at this point that I had been to Kasid’s house, which was like any other household. It didn’t matter that Kasid probably had better personal hygiene at that age than I did. That is how conditioning works. 

Screen Flash – Kasid and I are still friends. He is an engineer, an entrepreneur who developed an app to help underprivileged children learn and is currently in Europe working for a big tech firm. 

Now, I was lucky enough to realize that I had these biases and actively correct my worldview, but most people continue living with such conditioning. Recently, in an AMA I conducted on 14th Feb, a follower asked me this. 

 

Now if you notice, I advised her that she needs to de-condition from all the negative stereotypes. The way to do that is to get to know Muslim people personally. In fact, this has been my standard response to this situation - whenever an online troll is spewing hate towards Muslims, I ask them if they know any Muslims personally or if they're just speaking based on the propaganda that they consume literally every waking moment. 

More often than not, it is the latter. But once, I remember the question backfired. This guy replied back saying he was speaking from personal experience - apparently, his grandfather was beaten up by a Muslim man over a property dispute. For a moment, I was not sure about how to react to that. But then it occurred to me, that even he was not entitled to hate ALL Muslims, but those who attacked his kin. You see, our neighbors in my ancestral village had usurped a part of our land. They were Hindu Brahmins. Now I didn't deem all Hindus or Brahmins crooks because of that incident - similarly, he had no right to say "inki jaat hi aisi hai" based on the action of one crooked guy from that community. 

And that's the point.

All those sweeping statements we hear about Indian Muslims - they are generalizations, based off of pre-existing biases and false assumptions. For example, the whole idea that Indian Muslims should be sorry for Mughals demolishing Hindu temples. Think logically and you realize that most Muslims in India today have no relationship to the Mughal clan whatsoever. For that matter, I see propagandists cite violence in European countries by immigrants to spread hate for Muslims in India - what does a French Muslim have in common with an Indian Muslim? Nothing other than the faith - and that too, I'm sure, isn't as similar in practice as one would like to believe. 

We have all seen the dangers of generalization in history. Just two decades earlier, post 911 in America, we saw how quickly the generalization of Arabs as brown, bearded, and turbaned, led to attacks and arrests of Sikhs and innocent immigrants who were profiled based solely on their appearance. When there is already a bias in place, even if it is a very small bias, created by something your parents or friends said about someone or a certain group of people, then it becomes easy to believe other things against them. Biases very easily turn into disgust and then hate. And hate leads to violence. This is why such biases and generalizations should not be propagated. This is why what the TV news channels have been doing is downright criminal. Their inflammatory coverage of topics and an ever-present narrative that paints Muslims in a negative light is clearly done at the instructions of people in power – but the hatred it creates affects everyone. 

Recently, the news regulatory body NBDSA fined 3 news channels for violating the code of ethics through their reporting. NBDSA criticized how Godi news anchors have generalized ideas about Muslims to spread hate and asked them to remove those programs from their online portals. The self-regulatory body slapped a fine of Rs 1 lakh on TimesNow Navbharat and Rs 50,000 on News18 India, based on complaints filed by activist Indrajeet Ghorpade for their news shows on ‘love jihad’. The NBDSA warned Aaj Tak for its coverage of violence on Ram Navami, targeting the Muslim community. In a statement, the NBDSA said that the term ‘love jihad’ must be used with “great introspection, as religious stereotyping amounts to violation of the Code of Ethics and can corrode the secular fabric of the country.” They said that such reports “cause(s) irreparable harm to a community and create(s) religious intolerance or disharmony.”

This Us vs Them mentality can't be pinpointedly blamed on any one person or group of people. The fact is that the existing differences in religion, tradition, and customs have been weaponized by several groups for their own agenda – be it the British, Savarkar’s Hindu Mahasabha, or Jinnah’s Muslim League. More recently, organizations like RSS and VHP have used these feelings to generate hate and ire. But the question that nobody asks is “Where is this going to lead us?” 

You see, hate makes it awfully easy to dehumanize the people we hate. When we dehumanize someone, we are able to imagine doing things to them that we wouldn’t do to others. Would you ever imagine hacking your neighbor Sharmaji to death? No, right? But here’s what a random netizen said:


Would you ever threaten Riya from your neighborhood to rape? No, right? But here’s what a random citizen said:

 


Horrified yet? Or do you want to see more?

Even if these particular people don’t act on their words and threats, there’ll always be criminal-minded individuals who will do horrendous things in the name of religion. Spreading hate makes more and more people lose sight of their humanity and turn to violence. And that can’t be good for any society. 

Now if seeing all this makes any of you want to change things, if it makes you want to fight the conditioning, then let me tell you how to do it. It is quite simple actually. 

Step 1 – The first step is to take the idea of religion, the concept of culture and tradition, and the idea of international boundaries a little less seriously. You must realize that all of these ideas are always evolving and changing. When looking at people, you have to see humans before you color them based on their religion, culture, or nationality. See a human before you see a Muslim. See a human before you see a Pakistani, Bangladeshi, or Hindustani. 

Step 2 – The second step is to de-condition from your existing biases. All these seemingly innocuous stereotypes about Muslims, or any group of people that you believe in – that make you hate them – recognize it as conditioning. You have to stop believing in these ideas. You have to go out and meet real people and form your opinion based solely on your experience. And again, use step 1 while judging people.

Step 3 – The next step is to recognize and question propaganda. This world runs on propaganda. Most of what you are shown on TV and social media is designed to influence your opinion for someone’s gain. The moment a piece of news or information enrages you, ask a simple question – who profits from your rage? The news channels peddle hate and this hate often leads to riots between communities. Who stands to benefit from a communal riot? Not the people rioting – no, they are losing lives, property, and their humanity. It is the people who will win the votes of the polarized public. When you’re consumed with hate for Muslims, the politicians will use your anger to stay in power. Because all you’d want them to do – is make life difficult for Muslims. Whereas what you really need from them is to make life easier for you. (You know, by creating jobs, providing good public facilities, etc.)

Screen Flash – There’s a trend to label people speaking against hate as propagandists. Anyone promoting harmony and peace can’t be doing propaganda. Understand this.

Step 4 – The last step after you have successfully done all of these things is to keep doing it. Keep fighting the conditioning. Keep fighting the propaganda. Open your eyes to real people around you, see them for who they are – some good, some flawed, but all of them human, like any of us.

Life is too short to hate anybody. Rise above the hate. 

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Here are some links to the articles cited in the video:

















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